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HC commutes death to life for two in Pune BPO murder case

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Convicts to spend 35 years in jail; Bench says delay in execution against their right

The Bombay High Court on Monday commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment for two convicted of rape and murder of a BPO employee in Pune in 2007.

A Division Bench of Justices B.P. Dharmadhikari and Swapna Joshi was hearing a petition filed by Purshottam Borate and Pradeep Kokade to quash the death penalty awarded to them as there has been a huge delay of 1,507 days (four years, one month and six days) till the date of their execution, June 24, in Pune. The two will now have to spend 35 years in prison.

In November 2007, when the BPO employee was leaving from work at night, Borate, the cab driver, along with his friend Kokade, kidnapped, raped, and murdered her.

On March 20, 2012, the sessions court convicted them to death. On May 8, 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, which ought to have been executed within 90 days.

After their mercy petitions were dismissed by the apex court on June 27, 2015, officials of Yerawada Central Jail, where the accused are lodged, on July 16, 2015, sent the mercy pleas to the principal secretary of the State home department, without complete documents.

On March 29, 2016, the Governor rejected the mercy petitions, but the date of his signature on the papers was of January 25, 2016. On May 26, 2017, the President rejected their mercy pleas. The accused have been in solitary confinement for nearly eight years.

The HC said, “We find the delay in execution of death penalty in the present matter undue, inordinate and unreasonable. Of the five years, mercy petitions were pending for about two years and for period thereafter, no proceedings were pending. We find that delay in the present matter could have been easily avoided and the mercy petitions and the final execution could have been dealt with in sense of urgency.”

The Bench said, “We find that undue or avoidable delay in execution of death penalty by any arm of the State would be against their fundamental right. Additional punishment resulting from avoidable delay is unconstitutional in all circumstances and contingencies. Quantum or period thereof is also not material. Moreover, the convicts before us have been undergoing solitary confinement since March 20, 2012.”

The 102-page judgement read, “We have to consider the rights of a convict to be hanged and he is not concerned with the constitutional functionary which has caused delay or contributed to it. When the protection accorded by Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India is at stake, the executive, court of law or the Governor/President stand at same pedestal.”

Quashing their death warrant, the Bench said, “They (Borate and Kokade) are made to suffer additional unconstitutional incarceration cannot be disputed. We find the convicts before us are entitled to relief of commutation of their respective death penalty. We commute their death sentence to life imprisonment for a period of 35 years including the period already put in by them.”

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:31:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/hc-commutes-death-to-life-for-two-in-pune-bpo-murder-case/article28752922.ece

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